October 24, 2019
See story from Hoyt, Kansas
October 23, 2019
October 22, 2019
Sitting at his desk Monday at High Plains Mental Health, Walt Hill had no idea what was going to happen if a child in the 20-county area of northwest Kansas, which the agency serves, has a psychiatric crisis that requires hospitalization. As of Monday, KVC Hospitals, 205 E. Seventh St., closed its 12 beds that for 12 years have been reserved for kids under 18 who are suicidal or dangerously aggressive. “From our 20 counties, we would send 180 children a year,” said Hill, CEO of High Plains, the mental health agency that serves the residents of northwest Kansas. “About one every other day.” Youths in crisis stay anywhere from three to eight days, Hill said during an interview with The Hays Daily News. Now kids in the 20-county area will have to go to Wichita, Kansas City, Denver or Kearney, Neb., for care. Staying connected, or getting support from parents and pastors, will be a problem, Hill said. But another, perhaps even more critical, issue is transportation. In the past that was the job of parents or law enforcement. Over the weekend, several children were still brought to KVC Hays, Hill said. But no more. “I guess the admissions were still open at KVC Hays,” he said. “But as of today they will go to Wichita.” The problem has worried legislators and law enforcement since the closing was made public in early September. Rep. Troy Waymaster told Ellis County commissioners earlier this month at their regular commission meeting that he and other legislators took a three-day mental health tour in September of the facilities in western Kansas. Even getting to KVC Hays has been difficult for some kids across the 20 counties. “I have to say that being on that mental health tour was very eye opening,” Waymaster said. “Especially what some of the children in the state are subjected to when they go to these facilities, what the families have to endure, and so that’s going to be an issue that we’re going to be having quite a bit of discussion of as well.” Sen. Rick Billinger and Rep. Barb Wasinger have also expressed concern about the closing during recent legislative updates to the Ellis County Commission and Hays City Commission. “How does a child and their parents, who are in Goodland or Colby or St. Francis, when the child is physically aggressive or terribly suicidal, how do they get to Wichita or Kansas City?” asked Hill, whose agency is a neighbor just down the block from KVC. “It’s a big difference between law enforcement driving six blocks, or parents, bringing a child over six blocks, versus getting them to Wichita or Kansas City, while the child is physically aggressive or ready to jump out a car door because they’re suicidal,” Hill said. “It isn’t uncommon that our children at West Side School have to be hospitalized here at KVC.” Legislators and Hill say the reasons for KVC’s elimination of its acute care beds in Hays aren’t clear. At a Legislative Budget Committee hearing Oct. 2 in Topeka, legislators questioned officials from the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services about why nothing was done sooner to address the closing crisis, according to a transcript Hill provided of the session. KVC has switched all its short-term acute crisis beds in Hays to 30-90 day psychiatric residential treatment facility group home beds, called PRTF by the industry, confirmed Blythe Hinderliter, director of KVC marketing. Eventually KVC Hays will increase from 38 to 50 PRTF beds, she said. “We were getting conflicting information on what we were told on the tour and what we’re being told in Topeka,” Waymaster told the Ellis County Commissioners. “They’re going back and seeing what is the actual reason KVC is closing the acute care portion of that facility and making them all PRTF beds.” The closing essentially violates a promise the state of Kansas made 12 years ago when it closed its acute care kids beds in Larned and contracted the service with KVC. The state at that time promised residents of northwest Kansas the service would be available through KVC, said Hill. But two and a half years ago, from what Hill can tell, KVC was told by KDADS that the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services had said KVC was mixing two different kinds of patients, long-term versus acute crisis, in a way not allowed by law. To fix the problem, KVC was told to separate the long-term hospitalized youths from youths in crisis. According to the hearing transcript, Andy Brown, KDADS commissioner of behavioral health services, told legislators that KVC said keeping the acute care beds wasn’t financially feasible. Youths would now have to be served by KVC’s new 52-bed Wichita hospital, which opened this summer. But Hill said KVC told him the problem was a needed modification in Hays to replace a suspended ceiling with either a permanent drywall ceiling or a higher suspended ceiling, to eliminate the possibility of hanging. KVC told Hill the fix was not financially feasible. “Of course I wondered why doesn’t the state give them the extra funds to remodel the facility, since it’s state hospital beds?” Hill said. Waymaster at the October hearing said legislators should have been told about the Hays closing sooner, before KVC sent out a formal letter to High Plains and KDADS. “There was a lot of mishandling, I think, in this situation,” Waymaster said at the hearing. “And now, the kids who need the help the most are going to be suffering from it.” Hill indicated to the legislative committee that the closing was abrupt. “We received notification on a Monday that those beds were going to be closed the third week of October because of an issue with CMS and payment,” Hill told the committee. “That’s all I’m aware of. I’ve not been privy to more details. There have been no discussions in western Kansas about this, about the impact, before or after the decision was made.” KDADS’ Brown told legislators at the hearing that KDADs would help if it could, according to the transcript. “If we were able to find a way to identify a provider on the western side of the state, that we could license for these sorts of kids for the acute care, we’d be happy to do that,” Brown said. KDADS is required to enforce the CMS rule about mixing the two kinds of kids, said Brown. “KVC made the decision to close the facility, not us,” he said. The situation has been a problem for a number of years, and one that the state and KVC have worked around by the “grace of God,” Brown told the committee. He became aware of it when he was appointed commissioner in May and became obligated to enforce the CMS rule. Mixing the two different groups of kids has resulted in assaults in the past, Brown said, but he doesn’t know how many. Billinger asked him to find out. The legislators also asked that KVC come and explain its side of the story. Dave Anderson, director of clinical programs at High Plains Mental Health, said in an interview that the situation will be a hardship for both youths and their families, and possibly communities. With beds at KVC, youths get their treatment locally, where their families can participate. “These would be some kids from Goodland, Colby, Norton, Dodge,” Anderson said. “Now all those kids and their families are going to have to go to Wichita or Kansas City. And what that means is a lot of them are not going to get that care. Not having those resources available means people don’t get care and that puts more people at risk.” By Margaret Allen Hays Daily News Posted Oct 21, 2019 at 4:31 PM https://www.hdnews.net/news/20191021/suicidal-aggressive-youths-in-crisis-lose-inpatient-help-kvc-closes-those-beds-in-hays
October 22, 2019
Racial concerns worked their way into the Geary USD 475 Board of Education work session Monday evening. Board members are angry at what was characterized as race based behavior toward Junction City High School students. They have approved a motion condemning the actions, while USD 475 administrators are conducting an investigation and having conversations with administrators in USD 383. The topic was first brought to light at the school board meeting by Board member Jim Schmidt. “Both during and after the Junction City – Manhattan football game there were some very unfortunate events that some of our students had to endure. I know that it would behoove us as a board and a district to condemn those activities so that our students know that we support them.” Schmidt continued by saying, “I know we’re not innocent of this within our own community because there have been some things in the past that have occurred. But if we can’t get our act together then I just think it’s time that Junction City and Manhattan take a break. This is absolutely ridiculous. Those things should not occur in this day and age, and apparently it also occurred on the playing field.” Schmidt said he talked to staff and community members on this subject. ” When they feel that they have to cover up their JC Blue Jay emblem so that they can get through the parking lot….really? That’ s the day we live in, that’s where we are right now. And the things that were being chanted in the parking lot to our fans and to our cheerleaders and to our staff members, I condemn it, publicly I condemn it. And I hope Manhattan steps up and does the same thing. Shame on them if they don’t.” Superintendent of Schools Dr. Reginald Eggleston said at the end of the game when people were leaving the field “there was a space between the fence where they were walking through and getting to the bus where our cheerleaders had some inappropriate comments made to them. Same thing happened from my understanding in the crowd as individuals were leaving, some comments were made that were inappropriate as well. ” Eggleston added those were by individuals, community and maybe even students. Eggleston noted that administrators at Junction City High School have been in contact with their counterparts at Manhattan High School and have been working and talking with them about steps to mitigate this type of behavior as they move forward in the future. “Additionally there were some comments that were made, alleged, that a referee may have stated to a student. That has also been reported. Eggleston confirmed this is what USD 475 leaders have been told and has been brought to their attention by students but it was not heard by district administrators. Schmidt commented however that the cheerleading coaching staff did all ” they could to get our cheerleaders onto the bus and out of the environment.” USD 475 Board of Education President Rina Neal said it’s alleged. “The thing is we condemn those type of acts. We don’t tolerate that type of behavior, those conversations, those negative racist comments. So yes they’re doing an investigation but we still condemn it. Hopefully Manhattan will come forth and say they condemn it as well. but it is not appropriate for us as a Board to just ignore that it happened because it did happen and we were made aware of it. ” Neal noted this was race-based. “There’s ways to curtail some of this, and come to the table, and come up with solutions. But it needs to be condemned. Neal noted, “Times have changed and these things are more prevalent than they have ever been before. There’s a comfort level and I don’t want to get into politics, but there’s a comfort level for people doing things like that, and it just needs to be condemned, and it shouldn’t be tolerated and our students shouldn’t be subjected to that, our fans shouldn’t be subjected to that, and our players shouldn’t be subjected to that either.” Eggleston suggested that the next time the school board meets they can go into executive session where there can be more details and the issue can be discussed. “Of course we don’t want to throw our good name and character, throw anybody, especially when everything’s alleged at this present moment and I would prefer us to have that conversation then.” Eggleston added he would be talking to his counterpart in Manhattan this week. The Board of Education then voted via voice vote to condemn the alleged actions that occurred at the Junction City – Manhattan football game on October 11th. JC Post will contact Manhattan USD 383 officials for their response. By Dewey Terrill http://www.jcpost.com/2019/10/22/usd-475-board-of-education-condemns-recent-alleged-actions-at-the-junction-city-manhattan-football-game/
October 16, 2019
The Hon. Delia York vice-chair of the Kansas Juvenile Justice Oversight Committee, brought attention to Our Town Our Kids at a two-day event in Topeka. The conference was a gathering of the Joint Committee on Corrections and Juvenile Justice Oversight, with addresses by the Acting Secretary of the Kansas Department of Corrections and the Deputations Secretary of Juvenile and Adult Community Based Services. Bruce Chladny, Executive Director of Kansas Association of Counties (formerly with OTOK) attended the conference, reporting that Judge York heralded OTOK as important work for ways in which communities are identifying local needs and utilizing Reinvestment dollars.
October 13, 2019
According to the Kansas City Star posted on October 9, 2019 a 12-year-old Overland Park girl formed a gun with her fingers, pointed at four of her Westridge Middle School classmates one at a time, and then turned the pretend weapon toward herself. Police hauled her out of school in handcuffs, arrested her and charged the child with a felony for threatening. Shawnee Mission school officials said they could not discuss the case, citing privacy laws, but did say it wasn’t the district that arrested the child. A school resource officer, employed, by the Overland Park Police Department, would have handled the arrest, Smith said. The department said it could not discuss the case. But according to Johnson County District Court documents, on Sept. 18, the girl “unlawfully and feloniously communicated a threat to commit violence, with the intent to place another, in fear, or with the intent to cause the evacuation, lock down or disruption in regular, ongoing activities …” or created just the risk of causing such fear. The Overland Park Police incident report provided to The Star included no details of what happened, only the date, time and place. A person familiar with a more detailed incident report spoke to The Star on condition of anonymity. The person said that during a class discussion, another student asked the girl, if she could kill five people in the class, who would they be? In response, the girl allegedly pointed her finger pistol — like the ones many children use playing cops and robbers. Because of that gesture, The Star was told, the girl was sent to Principal Jeremy McDonnell’s office, and the other students involved were also talked to. The school resource officer recommended that she be arrested, the source said. She was detained by police and later released to her mother. A hearing in the Juvenile Division of the District Court of Johnson County is set for Tuesday. “I think that this is something that probably could have been handled in the principal’s office and got completely out of hand,” said Jon Cavanaugh, the girl’s grandfather in California, where the girl is now living. He said his granddaughter has no access to a real gun and she had no intent of harming anyone. “She was just mouthing off,” he said. Smith said that in general, pointing a finger pistol might violate the district’s policy against intimidation and bullying. “I might not have anything in my hand but I might be so clear that the individual definitely feels threatened,” Smith said. Following the many school shootings across the country, such as last year’s Feb. 14 mass killing at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, many states have adopted zero-tolerance polices for bullying and threatening. School officials are sensitive to any gesture or language that could threaten the safety of students, teachers or school staff. To see the full story and videos please go to: https://www.kansascity.com/news/local/crime/article235891762.html
September 21, 2019
Please click and read the Pew Research Center's report about the success that Kansas has had with juvenile justice reform: Pewtrusts: Kansas Reforms Improve Juvenile Justice
September 7, 2019
We are very proud to announce that one of our OTOK PIs, Elaine Johannes, has been appointed to the Kansas Advisory Group (KAG) by Governor Kelly. We are well represented! Click here to learn more about the appointment and the key role of KAG.